Local hospice organization says it's prepared for coronavirus

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 4:51 AM EDT
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The most vulnerable populations are those nearing the end of their lives and hospice care workers are hired to make them comfortable. A hospice office in Vermont says the profession is probably more prepared than most for the coronavirus.

Bayada Hospice operates out of four offices in Vermont and one in New Hampshire, all serving hospice-qualified individuals. The organization says that, so far, they've cared for about a dozen patients who have contracted coronavirus, but they can't disclose how many have died.

"We don't have a textbook for this. This is a first for all of us," said Bayada's Jessica DeGrechie.

But she says her industry is probably more prepared than most because workers are used to helping the most vulnerable populations, those who are nearing the end of their lives.

"Hospice is sort of ahead of the game in that regard because this is just the work we do," said DeGrechie.

The medical professionals don't work out of a specific center, they are sent to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and homes across the region. She says her staff took on the responsibilities by storm.

"There's no hesitation. I think everyone on this team is all in and recognizing we can't really discriminate based on prognosis and diagnosis and who we decide to take care of. There is a need," said DeGrechie.

She says that need is perhaps even more complex and critical than typical cases, as family members are separated and in isolation from sick loved ones. That's where Bayada's extensive grief and loss counseling comes in. DeGrechie says the staff is also finding creative ways to coordinate virtual visits through video chat.

"I think everybody is hypervigilant right now to make sure we're checking in and how are people doing, what questions do they have, what do they need for support -- being available and being present as best we can," said DeGrechie.

The dedicated COVID-19 case team is taking the usual CDC precautions, but staffers are also wearing protective gear like goggles, face masks, gowns and gloves. DeGrechie says the level of care is still the same, it just looks a little different.

"We like to communicate with these folks what that might look like, so they're not -- when we walk in and we have an N95 mask on and we have goggles and a gown, that they're not surprised by how we present," said DeGrechie.

Bayada says because family members are separated and in isolation from sick loved ones, they're relying heavily on the company's extensive grief and loss counseling.

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